McCartney's Pal 'The AOL Girl' Could So Do The Goth Thing

Teen singer Lindsay Pagano releases debut album, Love & Faith & Inspiration.

Here's what it sounds like 90 percent of the time 15-year-old singer Lindsay Pagano introduces herself:

"I go, 'Oh, hi, I'm Lindsay Pagano.' And they go, 'How is it like to work with Paul McCartney?' " Pagano said, giggling.

And the other 10 percent?

"Oh, you're the AOL girl. You're the girl from the AOL commercial."

Yes, Pagano is probably the youngest performer to duet with the former Beatle. And yes, she is the cute brunette singing in that AOL commercial. Her résumé also includes the theme song for the WB show "Maybe It's Me" and an endorsement deal with Reebok.

Now Pagano can add an album to her list of achievements — her debut, Love & Faith & Inspiration, was released Tuesday. Not that she minds the McCartney ties.

"It's a good thing because all my friends are getting to know who Paul McCartney is," Pagano said. "People my age are starting to go back and listen to all the old Paul McCartney albums and the Beatles albums. And his crowd gets to listen to my music, so it's kind of the best of both worlds."

Nor does she mind being "the AOL Girl."

"The AOL commercial was actually really good for me because people knew my name, but they didn't know my face until the AOL commercial," she said. "It was also really good exposure for the song."

Pagano was born in Philadelphia and raised by parents who performed in a band. Her mother was the singer, and her father played bass guitar.

"It's in my genes," Pagano said. "When I was little, I would always want to be like my mom. So I guess that's really what started it. I would watch my mom and dad's band practice in the basement, and I would sit at the top of the steps. And then I started singing on my own. My mom finally let me sing by myself, and she said, 'You can really sing.' And I said, 'Yeah, I know. I learned from the best.' "

In fifth grade, Pagano won a talent show singing Mariah Carey's "Hero." It was then that she realized she could be a professional singer. "Music picked me," she said.

A few years later, at her 13th birthday party, Pagano sang three songs for her friends, including Aretha Franklin's "Respect," which she sang only because her father asked her to. A family friend asked for a videotape of the performance and got it into the hands of singer/songwriter Jude Cole, who signed on as Pagano's songwriter and producer.

"It felt really good just to have someone believe in me that much, because it's kind of hard for your friends to believe that the girl that they grew up with is actually gonna be something," Pagano said of Cole. "None of my friends were really into music. They were all into 'the popular crowd' and just being cool at school. And I was really just doing my own thing with music, so it was really just good to have someone to share that with."

Cole wrote all the songs on Love & Faith & Inspiration, except for McCartney's "So Bad." Pagano was recording the album at the same Los Angeles studio where McCartney was recording Driving Rain (see "Guitars Blare On Paul McCartney's Driving Rain") when he introduced himself and asked to hear some of her music.

"I played him some, and he was dancing all around the studio," Pagano recalled. "Everyone was freaking out that it was Paul McCartney, and I would be like, 'Oh, I just saw Paul. Whatever.' He just became a regular person. He asked how the album was doing one day, and I said, 'Well, I'm just looking for a really simple acoustic song for the end of the album, just to end it.' And he said, 'Well, I wrote this song called 'So Bad,' which I think would go really good with your voice.' I laid down a rough track, and when I came back to work on it again, I hear this vocal in the back, and it's Paul's vocal. He was singing on it as kind of a surprise. So it became a duet."

Some of the other highlights on Love & Faith & Inspiration include the funky title track, the soulful "Amazing High" and the poppy first single, "Everything U R." While there are certainly bits of Britney Spears in her music, Pagano is more along the lines of Michelle Branch.

" 'Everything U R' is more of a pop song than the rest of the album is," Pagano said. "I think it's a good thing that the album is finally coming about, just because you'll see it's a lot more soulful and more R&B. It's actually kind of '70s. It's really old-school."

"Everything U R" is not your typical 15-year-old schoolgirl crush song. The single addresses the word love and how it can be mistranslated. "One word for all dynamics leads to problematic," Pagano sings on the track.

"There's so many meanings for the word 'love' — the love for your cat, the love for the chair you're sitting on, or the love for a person — but you really have to explain what you mean, 'cause it's often mistranslated," Pagano said.

After the holidays, Pagano will head out on a national tour with fellow teen singer Aaron Carter. She is also auditioning for television and film roles. And as she pointed out, she's only 15 and still can go anywhere with her career.

"I'm writing songs right now for a second album, and a lot of them sound like rock songs," Pagano said. "Who knows? I could come out as, like, a Marilyn Manson girl kind of thing. I mean, I'm just experimenting right now. I could do the goth thing. I could so pull that off!"